Working, Waiting, Watching — That’s Show Biz
Don Bowman
Terri Wheaton ‘99 scans phone messages and checks her e-mail four or five times a day, waiting. Wheaton is the president of Wilson Wheaton Productions, an independent film production company in Bowie, Maryland, and is the producer of a recently completed full-length film called Lovesong.

She waits and watches now for news that the film, shot on and near RU and featuring RU students, faculty, staff and alumni, has been accepted by one or more of the seven prestigious national film festivals to which she has applied. National distribution into theaters, into the DVD market or online is the all-important next step for Wheaton as she grows the company and fulfills her artistic aspirations. The e-mails or letters for which she waits will come from festivals in Los Angeles, Denver, the Bahamas, Hollywood or Austin where the film industry, especially distributors, will screen Lovesong.

Wheaton and her husband, Lewis ‘99, who serves as vice president of Wilson Wheaton Productions and executive producer of Lovesong, shot the film on the RU campus in the fall of 2005 with a cast of local actors, a production crew headed by director Gabriel Aluisy, and two veterans of the Los Angeles television and film scene, Trent Horne and Rakeeta Butler, in the lead roles.

Wheaton’s path to becoming the head of a film production company began in 1995 when she came to Radford hoping to write for television and began work on her media studies degree. Wheaton combined her major with a business administration minor and when she “couldn’t get anyone to read my scripts,” she decided to produce them herself.

During the process of forming Wilson Wheaton Productions, she drew from her years at RU by reading extensively, e-mailing professors and networking with her fellow graduates. The Wilson Wheaton board of directors includes several RU graduates whom Wheaton met when she was a student and a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

The Lovesong project enabled Wheaton to connect her past and future by returning to RU, where she and Lewis had met. Lewis is now a researcher for the Veteran’s Administration in Baltimore and has just been awarded a Ph.D. in neurosciences and cognitive sciences from the University of Maryland.

“RU was the perfect place to film. The campus was beautiful in the late summer and everybody was so cooperative,” said Wheaton. “The local talent was professional, natural and believable, and that came through as we were trying to capture what it was like to be and feel like a college student.”

Lovesong was a chance to build Wilson Wheaton’s inventory beyond its first film, Again, which is being re-edited to prepare for online release. Wheaton handled the whole Lovesong project and put it into production quickly, with all-important festival deadlines in mind.

“I finished editing the script in March 2005, the pre-production immediately began and we did auditions in April,” said Wheaton. “We did the shooting on campus in September and then waited until March 2006 to see the director’s final edit.”

Wheaton combines the entrepreneurship of a businessperson and the creative vision of a filmmaker, and Lovesong was an opportunity to put it all together.

“Making independent films is unique. I have to keep up with both the film industry and general business world. To know film and business, I am reading and learning so many things ... contract law, accounting, what’s selling in Hollywood and the latest technology.”

While waiting for Lovesong to be accepted at film festivals, Wilson does not wait idly. Wilson Wheaton Productions has just bought the rights to African-American Fraternities and Sororities: Legacy and Vision, edited by Gregory Parks, Tamara Brown and Clorenda Phillips, from the University of Kentucky Press with an eye to producing a documentary that “demystifies black fraternities and sororities and shows them to be more than just the stepshows and hazing with which so many people associate them.”